Meet one of our Assistant Deans... Sneha Krishnan (DPhil, Development Studies)
Once upon a time, College Deans and their Assistant Deans played a largely disciplinary role, ensuring that the rules were followed. Today, their role is much more complex and supportive, with a strong focus on student welfare. St Anne’s has two Assistant Deans, who alongside their academic studies, work hard to provide practical support and a listening ear to St Anne’s students at all times of day or night. Our Student Support Fund pays their stipend, and provides for their accommodation on site in College, and lunch in Hall.
What do you do as Assistant Dean? Why is it important?
Assistant Deans do the important work of ensuring students feel supported and mentally and physically able as they face the very challenging work of the degrees they have embarked on. We are here to ensure that College rules are followed and that the institution is a safe, conducive environment for all with a healthy mix of work and play; as well as by offering welfare support through confidential meetings with individuals and groups of students, and offering guidance on seeking further help. I function as many students’ first port of call before they are referred on, perhaps to the College nurse, their GP or the counsellor. I also help to facilitate any communication with tutors, if needed.
‘I provide a safe space for students to come and talk about anything at all that is worrying them. A large number of issues are resolvable just through conversation, by allowing the student to express their feelings, and to explore options.’
Could you describe a typical day in the life of an Assistant Dean?
For me a typical day involves spending the morning working on my own doctoral work in the department of International Development. At the moment, I am writing up my thesis, and working on some articles for publication. Then I go for lunch in College. The provision to have lunch in College gratis (thanks again to the Annual Fund!) often makes for a good opportunity to informally meet both tutors and students. Whilst we Assistant Dean’s never engage in any gossip, this can be a place to pick up on emerging patterns or anxieties that seem to be shared across subjects and student groups. Following lunch, I typically return to work in the library. On some days, in the late afternoons and evenings, I visit students who need some support and spend an hour or two talking to them. Every Thursday, I offer a three-hour drop-in session for students to visit me and discuss any problems. This has worked well particularly as students often don’t want to reveal much on email and prefer to come straight to the drop-in session to talk. I am on duty about three or four nights a week, which means that at seven p.m., I pick up the duty phone and answer any calls until seven am. This involves medical emergencies, emotional distress that has come up suddenly at night, and very occasionally, ensuring that noise in College is adequately contained and that no one is disturbed by it.